A Tribute to the of

As I've surely commented before, the webmaster and I are big science fiction fans.  We could never get enough of the books, movies, television shows and assorted ephemera associated with the genre.

Interestingly, though, we didn't have scads of those types of comics as boys. Granted, superhero books probably easily qualify, but the collections we had didn't have much in the way of, say, My Greatest Adventure, Strange Adventures, Mystery In Space or other titles like it. I've been making up for lost time ever since and one house ad I used to see made me curious, so I recently got myself a copy of Mystery in Space #103 [November, 1965] which contains the origin of Ultra, the Multi-Alien.

The cover art was done by Lee Elias, who also did the interior story, but this was a good old anthology book, so "Ultra the Multi-Alien" was actually the third and last story after a Space Ranger tale and a generic one sandwiched between. The Grand Comic Book Database lists Jack Schiff as editor and Dave Wood as scripter, but with a question mark behind Wood's name, so apparently it's in dispute.

The setting is our solar system aboard Space Flight #107 carrying tourists from Mars to Jupiter and piloted by Ace Arn. Unfortunately they've run into some trouble with a comet's magnetic field that has pulled them off course. Arn calls for emergency evacuation of the passengers. After the passengers and crew are safe and Ace has reported their position to the Space Rescue Patrol he finds himself trapped in the cockpit by the magnetic force to the point he loses consciousness.

The helpless vessel is drawn along in the magnetic tail of the comet until ultimately exploding in another solar system and causing the vessel to crash land on a large asteroid. The ship actually enters a cavern where lots of other-worldly equipment is on hand and an alien body.

Shifting now to a small, one-man space ship we see a furry green alien who is on the way to that asteroid, certain that Zobra must have been killed in the cavern explosion, so he will retrieve the plans for Project Sun, which he is confident will make him master of this universe.

It seems Zobra and this creature, named Exto, are part of a secret interplanetary ring up to no good. The device that Exto recollects was demonstrated by Zobra and has the properties to change a clay-like mass into a duplicate of himself with the blast of a ray gun.  The duplicate will be completely under the "creator's"¯power.

Zobra distributes identical ray guns to the other members, who represent the planets Laroo, Trage and Raagan. He explains the "Life Gun" will create duplicates of each of them as well when they are used. The blue-skinned alien is anticipating creating an army with his weapon to take over the sun system, but Exto cautions that "...the material of these masses must be alien to our synthetic sun system in order to be activated by the blast...it took months for me to gather enough foreign matter in our system to construct just a few."

The other aliens are disappointed, but also hopeful that they can still create enough duplicates to add to their ranks and they leave Zobra to his work. Later, Zobra had contacted the 4 other captains later informing them that the plans for Project Sun were complete, but in his zeal while explaining his plans for domination he knocked a glass container of suffocation gas over and killed himself right before the two-way monitors he was using to communicate with his fellow ring members.

Ekto, watching on their home planet of Ulla was initially horrified and then thoughtful when he realized if he could get to the plans first, he could become the supreme tyrant.

Back at the asteroid cavern, Ace Arn has regained consciousness and soon discovers Zobra's body and removes the plans from his clutch. Moments later, Ekto lands, recognizes the vital plans in Arn's hand and realizes he can use his Life Gun on Arn since he's alien to the sun system and therefore susceptible to the ray. Just as he's about to fire, though, the three other members of the ring arrive and each fire simultaneously. The result is startling. Ace Arn has been transformed into a being made up of four distinct segments, each duplicates of one of the members of the ring, with his torso evenly divided between the furry green of Ekto and the blue of his cohort while one leg is a match for the lightning like creature and the other is of avian quality like the one resembling a humanoid owl.

Because Arn was hit by all four rays no one has control over him, but he now has some amazing new abilities and an understanding of the importance of the plans he holds.Ā  Instinctively he calls upon those new abilities as the ring closes in on him and he is forced to defend himself.

He quickly dispatches his attackers, destroys their Life Guns and decides he will turn them over to the authorities but then wonders what will become of him. He has learned from Zobra's papers that he cannot regain his natural form. How can he return to Earth like this? 

I have no real identity now. I’m four beings, one quarter each from the planets Ulla, Laroo, Trago and Raagan! Wait…I’m actually five beings…I still have my own—Arn’s—mind, too!

He dubs himself "Ultra"¯by using the first letters of each planet and tacking on the "a"¯ from his name at the end. Thus the universe is introduced to "Ultra, the Multi-Alien!"

In the final panel of this 9-page story, he flies back toward Earth and vows to use his abilities to battle the criminal element there.

Apparently he did just that, pretty much taking over as the star attraction on Mystery in Space through issue #110 when the series was cancelled.

One of the things that struck me about Ultra was that, just shy of a year after Metamorpho's debut in The Brave and the Bold #57 in December of 1964, here came another humanoid with 4 distinct quadrants in his body.

While Ultra wasn't nearly as versatile as the Element Man, he did also enjoy more than one ability and seemed to also only need a pair of trunks for a uniform.  Coincidence? Make your own judgment.

As best I can tell, Ultra disappeared aside from a few cameos here and there after Mystery in Space folded and to an extent I can see why.

This is a pretty strange precept and his physical form would be a bit hard to warm up to. Despite my love for science-fiction I had a little trouble suspending my disbelief enough to buy into a precisely timed quadruple blast creating Ultra.

I was pleased to get to satisfy my curiosity at last, but rate this a somewhat disappointing 4 on the 10-point scale.

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